What Pet Food Labels Really Say

By isak, June 4, 2009

Learning To Read Pet Labels

If you are like me, you read the labels on your pet food. Especially in light of all the pet food recalls. Who doesn’t look for “gluten” these days. But so often, I find myself reading the labels and thinking, “So? What am I reading?” I know that the order of ingredients is based on how much of each ingredient is in the food. For example, if chicken by-product is first and chicken is sixth, I can be sure there is more chicken “stuff” in the food than actual chicken. And what is “by-product”? I am glad you asked. “By-product” means those animals and parts of animals unfit for you and I to eat–unfit for human consumption. That can include animals in the 4-D category.

reading pet food labelsWhat’s the 4-D category you ask? Animals that are Dead, Diseased, Dying, or Disabled when they arrive at the slaughter house. It can also include meat that has spoiled. Or even pets and horses who have been put to sleep!

So when I came across this article about reading pet food labels, I felt I had learned even more about what pet food labels really say.

You may find it confusing with all of the choices to select a brand of food that works for your pet. The choices are infinite not to mention the mind boggling labels that can lead you to believe the wrong thing. If you understand the pet food labels, you can buy the food that is best for your dog or cat.

There are two sections to a label: the information panel and the main display panel. The main display panel shows the names such as the brand, the manufacturer, etc. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) governs a product’s name and what ingredients it contains.

It is crucial to focus on how things are worded on pet food labels. If the product name includes things such as ‘beef platter’, ‘beef entree’, ‘beef dinner’, etc., it only has to contain 10% beef. However, if it is worded as ‘beef’, it must contain 70% beef. If a label reads ‘with beef’ it must only have a 3% beef content, and believe it or not, the words ‘beef flavor’ means the product must only contain less than 1% of beef!

A key to finding high quality food for your particular pet is to be sure to check the bag for the AAFCO statement that tells you this food has passed its feeding trials.

The other portion section of the label is the information panel, which must include an ingredient statement and a guaranteed analysis. The ingredients on the analysis will be listed in order of weight. The analysis will tell you the percentage of crude fat, proteins, fiber and moisture in the product. Even though the percentages are listed, the quality of the ingredients is not stated.

Pets are very sensitive to changes made to their food. Before making a change, pay attention to their coat, eye clarity and how they are acting. If he looks healthy, you may not want to upset his system by changing his food. Any pet nutritional information or concerns can be answered by a qualified veterinarian based on your specific pets needs.

Also when considering a new pet food take the time to consider what you will put the food in. Elevated dog bowls are considered an excellent selection, especially for taller dogs. There are many dog bowls and cat bowls to pick from, but whatever pet bowl you do decide on please stay away from using plastic bowls for feeding. Plastic bowls can hold onto germs and create a potentially unhealthy eating situation. Many pet owners opt for having two sets of pet feeding bowls to make sure that one set is always clean. It is so tempting to just keep reusing the same bowl without washing but do not fall into this trap, your pet’s health may depend on it. Look into pet supplies online for a wide selection and free shipping.

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reprinted from Dog Nutrition website

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